Charles Peter Mayiga will make four years as Katikkiro on May 12. Enock Mayanja Kiyaga, the Kabaka’s envoy in Manchester, assesses Mayiga’s performance in this Observer article.
There is a story some people within the Buganda kingdom administration love to informally tell. It starts with a trip Kabaka Ronald Mutebi made to an ambassador of a Western power. After he had been ushered in, the ambassador decided to break the ice by asking the king the state in which his kingdom was.
It is told that Kabaka Mutebi gave his usual smile, leaned back in his seat and then answered. “I have a very good and effective prime minister.”
The person he was referring to is Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga who is marking four years on May 12 as chief executive of Buganda kingdom. Some people within Mengo were not shocked by the answer Kabaka is reported to have given to the ambassador.
There is belief that for a long time, Kabaka Mutebi groomed Mayiga for this role. Mayiga himself has made some references that could prove this statement to be true.
“The Kabaka knows me very well. He knows my strengths and weaknesses and there is nobody at Mengo who should claim to know me better than him,” he once told Ntanda magazine, Buganda kingdom’s Luganda quarterly magazine.
For the past four years, Mayiga has labored to change this institution that is nearly 1,000 years old. He kicked off his reign by appealing to all that some aspects of Mengo must change. His reign would be of transparency and, most importantly, restoring Buganda’s lost glory. He visited churches and mosques and galvanized the people who had for long given up on Buganda. He then told them, he needed the Kasubi royal tombs restored.
Mayiga then led efforts to rebuild them. He didn’t have the money; so, he came up with an idea of fundraising, which would become commonly known as Ettoffaali. Todate, there has probably never been a campaign like Ettoffaali anywhere in the East and Central African region.
People, rich and poor, young and old lined up to give the little they had to him. Even Parliament of Uganda hosted him during a special session and MPs fell over one another contributing.
However, the main mausoleum house at Kasubi, a Unesco heritage wonder still isn’t finished even though Mayiga had promised to do so within six months.
When Mayiga realized that Kasubi won’t be done in the timeframe he gave, he went to his next project: completing the building beside the kingdom administration in Bulange that had stalled for close to four decades.
It was always a reminder of what wasn’t possible. Mayiga turned his attention to it and within a short period, the building complex, now known as Masengere was complete and Kabaka Mutebi inaugurated it on his 60th birthday. The building is now home to CBS FM, Buganda Land Board and other tenants.
Masengere also houses Buganda’s television station, BBS, commonly known as Terefayina, Luganda for TV. As Mayiga traversed the kingdom and beyond its borders during Ettoffaali, Kabaka’s people demanded that he sets up a TV station. The demands increased to unbearable levels.
“You can say that people were possessed. They wanted a TV station for Buganda. The other thing they demanded was a hospital,” recalls Noah Kiyimba, the kingdom’s information minister.
Mayiga plans to deliver a teaching hospital, which will be built at the Mengo palace (Lubiri). However, one of the significant outcomes of Mayiga’s administration was the harmonious relationship he established with the central government. Soon after his appointment, he made it clear that Mengo won’t belong to any political party. Previously, Mengo was seen as opposition-leaning.
“Buganda is for all regardless of political and religious affiliations. If you respect the Kabaka, you are welcome,” Mayiga said in an interview recently. It is this long-term vision of a kingdom that isn’t involved in petty politics that ensured President Museveni delivered over 200 land titles and through a memorandum of understanding with the Kabaka.
The central government agreed to pay what belongs to Buganda, and not to stop the Kabaka from touring any part of his kingdom. To Mayiga’s detractors, he had sold the kingdom to Museveni. Others said he had not even sought the blessings of the Buganda lukiiko (parliament).
Veteran journalist Joachim Buwembo once published an article in the East African newspaper where he claimed that to understand Mayiga and how he operates, you must go back to his hero, Kabaka Muteesa I.
Muteesa I was at the helm of Buganda when the white missionaries arrived and he understood that to preserve his kingdom, he needed to work with them. He in fact invited them to teach his people how to read and write. Muteesa I was called a traitor but in the end, Buganda managed to preserve itself.
A kingdom like Buganda that isn’t independent with its own military and treasury can only survive by working with those who control these resources. They don’t need to be sellouts. They just need to have a better working relationship.
When you talk to him, Mayiga is reluctant to mention his achievements. “It is for others to judge. Whatever has been achieved in the past four years is a result of a dedicated team and, most importantly, Ssaabasajja Kabaka who is always instructing us to deliver for his people,” he said, avoiding self-praise.
However, he considers unity to be a key milestone of his leadership so far.
“Our people are now united behind their king and are moving forward in one direction. We still have challenges but we will overcome them,” he said.
The Masaza Cup, the Kabaka Birthday Run and other events organized by the kingdom now attract thousands of people. Coroporate companies line up at Mengo to take advantage of this unity by entering into partnerships with the kingdom.
Arinaitwe Rugyendo, a media entrepreneur and businessman, says there is a way Mayiga has made people outside Buganda like him feel more comfortable.
“I feel we are very involved in what is going on in Buganda,” Rugyendo said.
Streamlining of operations at Bulange is also a key milestone. A corporate culture has been introduced by Mayiga.
Henry Rugamba, a seasoned communications and marketing expert, was shocked when he visited Bulange late last year.
“Our media houses and enterprises need to take note of what is going on in Bulange, the private sector needs to understand how the workers there have been motivated to be so passionate and, importantly, the other kingdoms in the country need to reach out and learn how they too can turn strong culture and love for their leaders into a roaring lion in the jungle of business,” Rugamba wrote on his Facebook page, a message that would later go viral.
However, this corporate culture has led to blackmail of Mayiga and key leaders of his administration from disgruntled former staff and other leaders who were dismissed or dropped by the Kabaka. “Katikkiro Mayiga’s greatest achievement is one people never discuss.
“You arrive at Bulange and see people who mean business. These chaps who benefited from the chaos won’t give up easily like the ones who have benefited from the confusion on land,” says Stephen Don Kafeero, a journalist with Daily Monitor.
As Mayiga embarks on yet another year, he still has a lot to achieve. Buganda Land Board has been in the spotlight over the land leases. Recently, the Kabaka agreed to offer 49-year leases to anybody on his land who wishes so. Some sections of the public felt uneasy over this move.
There is a lot of attachment to land as it is the single biggest asset people can ever have. However, with massive awareness, land leases may become the norm and not the exception.
The redevelopment of the Lubiri is another tenuous issue that Katikkiro Mayiga must addressas well as the completition of Muzibu Azaala Mpanga. Getting the people out of poverty is also something Mayiga must continue to address. The coffee planting campaign code-named emwanyi terimba (coffee does not lie) that he started is a good one.
Mayiga has also set a high precedent for both leaders in Buganda and Uganda in general for always finding time in his hectic schedule to write books; his latest being Uganda: 7key Transformation Ideas which is about the seven major factors which can drive Uganda to prosperity. He is also the author of King on the Throne, the story of the restoration of Buganda kingdom and Buganda ku Ntikko, which summaries the contemporary aspirations of the kingdom, among others.
Mayiga has also been able to traverse all the kingdom’s corners and reach out to places outside Buganda where none of his predecessors has ever been before like Mbarara, Mbale, Tororo and Busoga, among others.
In Buganda itself, he managed to reach out to the remotest of villages like Mannyogaseka in Kiganda Singo and Lubaali in Bukuya Buweekula Mubende and others. In the diaspora, Mayiga has broken new ground in his outreach programme to cities like Dubai in United Arab Emirates, Mbabane- Swaziland, East London, East Cape Province, Cape Town, West Cape Province Johannesburg, Gauteng Province all in South Africa, Scotland and Manchester in UK to mention but a few.
This all goes to prove that Charles Peter Mayiga’s appointment as the Katikkiro of Buganda was a strategic decision indeed, for which the appointing authority should be applauded for his usual foresightedness.
The author is the Kabaka’s envoy in Manchester, UK.